Lu Xun (陸遜), styled Boyan (伯言), was originally named Yi (議). A native of Wu (吳), in the commandery of Wu (吳), Lu Xun came from a prosperous and famous family east of the Yangtze River (1). Since he was orphaned at a young age, he lived with his granduncle Lu Kang (陸康), who was then the grand administrator of Lujiang (廬江). When Lu Kang found out that he was about to be attacked by Yuan Shu (袁術), who had long borne a grudge against him, he sent Lu Xun and his own family back to Wu for safety. Since Lu Xun was several years older than Lu Kang’s son Lu Ji (陸績), he kept his family in order for him.
1: From Ode of the Lu Family: Lu Xun’s grandfather, Lu Yu (陸紆), had the style name of Shupen (叔盆). He was a virtuous man, quick in wits, and served as a Colonel of the City Gates. Lu Xun’s father, Lu Jun (陸駿), who had the style name of Jicai (季才), was magnanimous and trustworthy, greatly loved by the different families in the clan. The highest rank he held was Chief Commandant of Jiujiang (九江).
When Sun Quan (孫權) was made a general, Lu Xun was twenty-one years of age, and began his career by working in Sun Quan’s office. After serving as a consultant clerk of both the Department of the East and the Department of the West (I), he was sent out to the field as chief commandant (都衛) at Haichang (海昌) garrison, and manage civil affairs of the prefecture as well (2). The prefecture had suffered years of drought, and so Lu Xun opened up the stores of grain to relieve the poor, as well as personally encouraging and overseeing farming. The people benefited greatly from his governing. At that time, there were many outlaws taking refuge in the Wu, Kuaiji (會稽), and Danyang (丹陽) areas. Lu Xun petitioned to Sun Quan to attack them, listing the advantages of doing so. Now, there was one Pan Lin (潘臨), the “general-in-chief” of the bandits in Kuaiji, who had been a scourge of the area, and who had evaded arrest through the years. And so Lu Xun took the soldiers in his command and went straight into the holdings of the outlaws. Wherever he went the outlaws submitted to him, and his command grew to 2,000 soldiers. Then, when the leader of the Poyang (鄱陽) bandits, You Tu (尤突), staged a rebellion, Lu Xun went to quell it. For that, Lu Xun was made Colonel Who Settles Majesty (定威校尉), and made to garrison at Lipu (利浦).
2: From the Eulogy of the Portraits in the Lu Ancestral Temple: Haichang is located in the current day prefecture of Yan’guan (鹽官).
I: Departments under the jurisdiction of a general.
Sun Quan gave Sun Ce’s (孫策) daughter’s hand in marriage to Lu Xun, and often sought his advice on various affairs of the realm. Lu Xun suggested, “At present, the conquerors have each taken a portion of the land and fortified their stands. They wait and watch like wolves. Thus, in order to defeat the enemies and bring peace to the land, we need many people to assist us. However, the Shanyue (山越) (II) bandits are still at large, owing to their geographically strategic hideouts. If we do not pacify them, it would be difficult for any other long-term conquests to go far. We should lead an army to pacify them and in the process, recruit the best forces amongst them to join us.” Sun Quan accepted his proposal and appointed him Company Commander of the Right Guard (III). Around that time, Fei Zhan (費棧), the leader of the bandits at Danyang, was given seal and cord of office (IV) by Cao Cao, and rallied the Shanyue people to coordinate an attack with him. Lu Xun was then sent by Sun Quan to annihilate Fei Zhan. Seeing that Fei Zhan had a greater army than himself, Lu Xun had a great number of banners made, and sent drummers and buglers to various strategic points. Concealed by the darkness of night they slipped all around the hills and valleys, and all of a sudden revealed themselves in great fanfare and charged towards the enemy. The enemy troops dispersed instantly. Lu Xun then stationed his men at the three eastern counties (V), drafting the able-bodied to be soldiers, and sending the weaker ones to manage agricultural lands. In the process, some ten thousand elite soldiers were added to the ranks and the remnants of the bandits were destroyed. Where Lu Xun’s army passed by, bandits were cleared out, and eventually Lu Xun returned to the fort at Wu Lake (蕪湖).
II: The term Shanyue originally denoted the inhabitants of the region south of the Yangtze who were not of Han ethnicity (the ethnicity of people from the Central Plains—or what we think of as “Chinese”). By late Han, they have been mostly assimilated by Han immigrants from the north. However, to protect themselves from the new waves of Han refugees escaping the war in the north, heavy taxation, as well as local factional warfare, they had established strong clan alliances by end of the Han dynasty. Their constant insurrection in resistance to Wu’s centralisation policies was the major source of headaches for the Sun administration.
III: A personal guard force, established by Wu.
IV: The seal and cord are the insignia of office. Cao was bribing insubordinate factions in Wu land holdings to create trouble for the Sun family.
V: Danyang, Xindu (新都), and Kuiji. The mountainous terrain in these commanderies was inhabited by the Shanyue.
Chunyu Shi (淳于式), the grand administrator of Kuiji, reported to Sun Quan that Lu Xun enlisted commoners unnecessarily, disturbing the peace of the area. Later on, Lu Xun reported back to the capital, and in a conversation [with Sun Quan], praised Chunyu Shi for being an excellent official. Sun Quan said, “Chunyu Shi had set accusations against you, but yet you praise him. Why is this so?”
Lu Xun replied, “Chunyu Shi’s mind is on taking care of his people, and that was why he criticized me. It would not do if I, in turn, denounce him in order to seek your approval.”
Sun Quan said, “You have indeed the conduct of a trustworthy person! Not all could do what you have done.”
When Lü Meng (呂蒙) was on sick leave and about to leave for Jianye (建業), Lu Xun went to pay him a visit. “Guan Yu (關羽) is stationed close to the borders,” said Lu Xun, “shouldn’t we devise a long-term plan to counter this threat?”
“What you said is right,” replied Lü Meng, “but I’m gravely ill now.”
Lu Xun said, “Guan Yu, proud of his own valour, is disdainful towards others. He has just accomplished something great, and now he has become overly arrogant, thinking only to strike northward. Since he hasn’t suspected much activity from our side, once he hears of your illness, his defences will certainly drop. So if we can take him by surprise, he is certain to be captured. It would be best if you could have an audience with the liege and devise a plan.”
“Guan Yu’s known for his military prowess,” replied Lü Meng, “and has been a difficult enemy. Since he has been in charge of Jing Province (荊州), he has been benevolent towards the people. Furthermore, morale is high on his side due to his recent victories. It may not be so easy to defeat him.”
Lü Meng thus came to the capital city. Sun Quan asked him, “Who would you recommend to replace you?” Lü Meng answered, “Lu Xun has far-reaching plans, and is able to take up great responsibility. Looking at his way of thinking, I think he would be the one capable for the great task at hand. Also, since his name is not well-known yet, Guan Yu would not be wary of him. Things cannot be better! If he is employed, those from without will not see what we are up to, while we, from within, can seek an opportune time to strike and to defeat [Guan Yu].” Thereupon Sun Quan summoned Lu Xun, and made him replace Lü Meng as Lieutenant-General, Inspector of the Right Division (偏將軍右都督).
Once Lu Xun arrived at Lukou (陸口), he wrote to Guan Yu thus,
“A short time ago I had the good fortune to witness your feats in battle: leading your army with discipline, you accomplished great victory with the least effort. How awesome and admirable that was!
Now that our common enemy is defeated, it is a time most meet for us to build an alliance. Having heard of your good news, I turn my mind to the command that has been entrusted to me, thinking always to follow your footsteps in conquest, and to fulfill the ambitions of our lords together.
Recently, unworthy though I am, I have been ordered to take up a post here in the west. I long to see even a speck of your glory, and to have your good counsel to bear in my mind.”
And he wrote on:
“Since Yu Jin (于禁) and company were captured, everyone near and far proclaimed your name in praise. Not even the leadership of Duke Wen of Jin (晉文公) of yore, shown at Chengpu (城濮) (VI)—nor even the strategies demonstrated by Lord Huaiyin (淮陰) at Zhao (趙) (VII)—can match what you have done.
VI: During the Spring and Autumn era, Duke Wen of Jin scored a huge victory over the forces of Chu (楚) at Chengpu city.
VII: Lord Huaiyin was Han Xin (韓信). Once, while at war with the Zhao state, he chose 2000 choice horsemen, and had them hide in the hills. Once the main forces engaged the enemy, he told them, they were to ride straight into the Zhao camps, and replace the Zhao banners with their own Han banners. By this strategy, Han Xin defeated the Zhao troops and annexed the lands of the Zhao state.
I have heard that Xu Huang (徐晃) and his remaining mounted troops are stationed nearby, poised to strike. Though their number is few, Cao Cao (曹操) is a cunning scoundrel, and there is no knowing what he would do in his wrath—I would be afraid that he will secretly increase the troops there, in order to carry out his malicious plans. It is true that their army is fatigued, but they still have strength in them. Furthermore, after a victory in battle, one is in danger of underestimating the enemy. The ancients who were skilled at warfare heightened their defences even in sight of a victory. Thus, I pray that you, O General, will plan far ahead, and ensure that your victory be complete.
I am but a student of the letters, unlearned, dull, unworthy in all regards. And thus I am overjoyed to have such a majestic and virtuous neighbour! My joy is indeed overflowing. Even though we have not had the chance to cooperate yet, I keep you in my thoughts. And so I dared to write thus to you, hoping that you will understand what is on my mind.”
After Guan Yu had read Lu Xun’s letter, he perceived not just a tone of respect and humility, but also a desire to depend on him. Thus he felt greatly at ease and unthreatened. Upon hearing this, Lu Xun reported the matter [to Sun Quan], listing the crucial details for the capture of Guan Yu. Sun Quan secretly led his armies up the River and assigned Lu Xun and Lü Meng to the vanguard. Soon after their arrival, Gong’an (公安) and Nanjun (南郡) fell. Lu Xun proceeded, after being made designated Governor of Yidu (宜都) and given the rank of Lieutenant-general Who Pacifies the Borders (撫遠將軍) and the noble title of Marquis of Huating (華亭侯). Meanwhile, Liu Bei’s own governor of Yidu, Fan You (樊友), abandoned the commandery, and most of the local commanders and the chiefs of the tribal peoples surrendered. Lu Xun requested that golden, silver and bronze seals be made and temporarily bestowed on the newly surrendered. This event took place during the 24th year of Jian An during the eleventh month (VIII).
VIII: This happened on the 7th day of the 11th month of the 24th year of the Jian’an reign—New Year’s Day of AD 220 by western reckoning.
Lu Xun sent generals Li Yi (李異) and Xie Jing (謝旌) with some three thousand troops to attack Shu generals Zhan Yan (詹晏) and Chen Feng (陳鳳). Li Yi led the naval troops while Xie Sheng led the land troops. They cut off the main road at the mountainous area leading to the city and defeated Zhan and Chen. Chen Feng was captured alive and he surrendered. After that, the troops (of Wu) continued on to attack Deng Fu (鄧輔), Governor of Fangling (房陵), and Guo Mu (郭睦), Governor of Nanxiang (南鄉) ; the attackers scored a decisive victory. Wen Bu (文布) and Deng Kai (鄧凱), both of prominent families in Zigui (秭歸), gathered a several thousand man army made up of minority populations and led them to join the ranks of Shu. Lu Xun regrouped his army and ordered Xie Sheng to quell Wen Bu and Deng Kai. Both Wen and Deng escaped and became officials in Shu. Lu Xun sent someone to coax them to return, and Wen Bu led his men back to surrender. Some ten thousand men were captured, recruited or executed during the entire incident. Sun Quan then appointed Lu Xun as Right Commissioner of the Army (右護軍), General Who Subdues the West (鎮西將軍) and further gave him the noble rank of Marquis of Lou (婁侯) (3).
3: From History of Wu: Sun Quan was pleased with Lu Xun’s achievements, and wanted to award him especially. Though Lu Xun was a high-ranked general and a marquis already, he had yet to go through the regular process of advancement in his home province. Thus, Sun Quan had the governor of Yangzhou (揚州), LüFan (呂範), to officially install him as an Aide-de-Camp (別駕從事) and recommend him as a Flourishing Talent (茂才) (IX).
IX: During the Han, the normal route to officialdom is to be first recommended as a “Filial and Incorrupt” or a “Flourishing Talent” by the local administration. Of the two, Flourishing Talent is the more prestigious title. Since Lu Xun started off as a clerk in Sun Quan’s field office, what Sun Quan is doing now is to honour him by filling in his “résumé”, so to speak.
During that time, there were scholars who had just submitted to the rule of Wu. Some already had official posts, while others were still unemployed. Lu Xun petitioned,
“In the past, Liu Bang (劉邦) employed many talented people, and Emperor Guangwu’s (光武) revival of the dynasty (X) attracted many able individuals; so much so that all who were able to manifest the Way (XI) came, regardless of distance. Now Jing Province has just been settled, and there are some talented ones whose gifts have yet to be recognised. Though I am foolish, I beg you sincerely to promote these people, and hence may all within the four seas look towards us and be willing to join us.”
X: Emperor Guangwu, a cousin of the former Han court, re-established the Han dynasty after the brief interlude of Wang Mang’s (王莽) usurpation.
XI: I.e., the teachings of the Confucian school of thought.
Sun Quan respected his words and accepted his proposal.
In the first year of Huangwu (AD 222), Liu Bei (劉備) led a large army to the western borders. Sun Quan appointed Lu Xun as Chief Controller (大都督) and gave him the authority and power of the army, with Zhu Ran (朱然), Pan Zhang (潘璋), Song Qian (宋謙), Han Dang (韓當), Xu Sheng (徐盛), Xianyu Dan (鮮于丹), Sun Huan (孫桓) and some other fifty thousand men under his command to repel the attackers. Liu Bei had his troops set camp all the way from the Wu Gorge (巫峽) and Jianping (建平) to the borders of Yiling (夷陵). He set up some tens of army agricultural colonies, and enticed the many minority tribes in the land to his service with gold, silk, and official positions. Liu Bei also appointed General Feng Xi (馮習) as Grand Controller (大督), Zhang Nan (張南) as leader of the vanguard, Fu Kuang (輔匡), Zhao Rong (趙融), Liao Chun (廖淳), Fu Rong (傅肜) and others as Vice Controllers (別督). Liu Bei first sent Wu Ban (吳班) to command some thousands of men to set up camps on the plains and challenge the enemy to fight. All the (Wu) generals desired to attack these men led by Wu Ban. Lu Xun said, “This must be a ruse; we shall continue observing instead (4). ” Upon knowing that his trick was foiled, Liu Bei led eight thousand ambushing troops out of the valley. Lu Xun said, “The reason why I did not heed your proposal to attack the troops on the plain grounds is precisely because I reckoned that they had a plot behind it.”
4: From History of Wu: All the generals wanted to repel Liu Bei’s troops but Lu Xun felt that it should not be done. He said, “Liu Bei personally led his troops eastwards on his campaign and their morale is just starting to increase. Furthermore, they are taking advantage of the high places and setting defences in difficult terrain. Attacking them now is difficult, and even if we could drive then down, we would not be able to overcome them completely. Should we be unsuccessful, our country may be in danger and this is not a small matter. Right now, the correct move should be to reward and encourage the troops and devise plans and observe enemy’s movements. If this were plains and fields here, we would have to worry about losing men in random charges and mêlées. However, the enemy is moving along the mountainous regions, hence they could not possibly carry out a full-scale attack and instead are stuck between wood and rock. We can thus slowly take control over them by their weakness.” The generals could not understand this, and were thinking that Lu Xun was fearful of Liu Bei. Thus each man was frustrated and angry inside.
Lu Xun then petitioned,
“Yiling is a very crucial area as it is the entrance to the rest of the nation. Although it can be taken easily, it can also be lost easily. Losing Yiling is more than just losing a county: it may even make Jing Province vulnerable. If we fight over it today, we have to score a victory. Liu Bei had violated the rules of Heaven; instead of defending his lands, he had the audacity to invade ours. I, Your servant, am not talented; but relying on Your might and majesty, using troops in accordance to the Way to counter those acting against it, our destruction of them is near.
After much observation of how Liu Bei had been leading troops in his career, I see that he had more failures than success; hence, he is not much of a threat. I was initially worried that he would lead an attack from both water and land; but now, it is evident that Liu Bei’s army had left their boats behind to take to the land, and is pitching camp all over. I observe that from his style of arrangement, there should be no further changes. Your majesty can have set your mind at rest, for there should be no worries for now.”
The Wu generals together proposed, “We should have attacked Liu Bei right away. Now his troops are five to six hundred li into our borders while we have faced off for some seven to eight months already. By this time, Liu Bei would have strengthened his defences at the crucial points and attacking him now would be futile.” Lu Xun replied, “Liu Bei is a sly person and he has had gone through many experiences in war. When he is in the first stages of organising his troops, his thoughts are concentrated, his will unwavering. It would have been impossible to attack him then. By now, they have stationed here long enough but yet without gaining any advantage over us, hence they are tired and their morale low. By flanking both front and rear and surrounding the enemy, I reckon that the time for us to capture and defeat Liu Bei has come.” Lu Xun then tried attacking one of Liu Bei’s camps but was unsuccessful. The Wu generals responded, “This is killing soldiers in vain!” Lu Xun replied, “I have just come up with a plan to defeat him.” Following that, Lu Xun had everyone hold a torch and carried out a fire attack to vanquish Liu Bei’s camps. As soon as the fire attack became successful, Lu Xun led all the troops to attack at the same time and beheaded Zhang Nan, Feng Xi, the barbarian king Shamo Ke (沙摩柯), as well as many others, and destroyed forty-odd camps. Du Lu (杜路), Liu Ning (劉寧) and some others from Liu Bei’s camps were cornered into surrendering. Liu Bei ascended Ma’an Mountain and stationed troops at various points to defend. Lu Xun commanded his troops to press on after them closely from all directions. As earth crumbles and tiles smash, Liu Bei’s defences were broken and his men died by tens of thousands. Liu Bei fled through the night, having the guards at the checkpoints (XII) hoist loads of abandoned armour and horns to burn on the roads as a roadblock. Liu Bei barely escaped to Baidi City (白帝城). Liu Bei’s boats, ships and weapons, naval and land troops were all captured. Corpses could be seen floating on the waters, obstructing the flow of the Yangtze. Liu Bei was greatly ashamed and angered, he exclaimed, “I am now humiliated by Lu Xun. Is this the will of Heaven?”
XII: As his army marched eastward, Liu Bei had various checkpoints built along the way, each equipped with a team of horses used in relaying urgent documents to and from Chengdu.
Earlier on, Sun Huan (孫桓) was given a separate command to attack Liu Bei’s vanguard at Yidao (夷道). He was surrounded by Liu Bei’s army, and sent to Lu Xun for reinforcements. Lu Xun said, “Not yet.” The rest of the generals said, “The General Who Keeps the East in Peace (安東將軍) [Sun Huan] is a kinsman of our lord. Knowing that he is now surrounded by the enemy, why can’t we send him help?” Lu Xun replied, “General Sun is well respected by his army and officers, the city’s defences are strong and there is sufficient food supply. There is no need for worries. Once my plan is put in action, even if we do not send reinforcements, the General can automatically break out of the enemy’s enclosure.” Indeed, as soon as Lu Xun’s plan was successfully carried out, Liu Bei suffered a great defeat and had to flee. Later, Sun Huan met up with Lu Xun and said to him, “Earlier on, I indeed resented you for your unwillingness to send reinforcements, but now as I see overall success in this battle I do understand that your dispatchment of troops is indeed well-planned.”
During the time when they were defending against Liu Bei’s invasion, many of the generals involved were either once Sun Ce’s subordinates, or aristocrats related to the ruling family one way or another. All of them carried an air of arrogance and refused to cooperate with Lu Xun’s orders. Lu Xun placed his sword on the desk said, “Liu Bei is a famous person and even Cao Cao feared him. Now he is pressing on our borders, and is going to be a difficult foe to counter. Every one of us here have received much favour from our country, and thus we should unite in harmony to fight this common enemy to repay the country’s kindness. However, as it is, we are not cooperating with one another—this is not what we should be doing. Although I am but a scholar, I have received my orders from the Lord. The reason the state is putting you gentlemen to such great inconveniences as to accept my command is because I have at least some value worth speaking about, and can humble myself for the sake of fulfilling a greater duty. All of us should fulfill our individual duties; how can we excuse ourselves from our responsibilities? The military code is rigid and unsympathetic; do not seek to disobey it!” However, it was only until the defeat of Liu Bei that the generals respected Lu Xun, seeing that most of the major strategies were devised by him.
When Sun Quan heard about these matters, he said, “Why did you not report to me right away about the generals’ disobeying military commands?” Lu Xun replied, “I receive great kindness from the country and have been given a position beyond my abilities. Moreover, out of the generals in question, some were the heart and spirit of the state, some fought as her teeth and claws; others were responsible in the building of the country’s foundation in some other way. They were all important and talented people of the country on whom the country relies. Although I have only mediocre qualities, I seek to imitate Xiangru (相如) (XIII) and Kou Xun’s (寇恂) (XIV) putting up with and working with their colleagues, for the well-being of the state.” Sun Quan laughed and praised him for that, and appointed him General Who Upholds the State and designated Governor of Jing Province(輔國將軍領荊州牧), and reassigned him as Marquis of Jiangling (江陵侯).
XIII: Lin Xiangru was a scholar and diplomat in the state of Zhao (趙) during the Warring States period. The King of Zhao held him in high regard and granted him a position above that of Lian Po (廉頗), a famed general. Lian was quite upset, considering himself to have done more for the country than Lin. He swore to humiliate Lin publicly. Having heard that, Lin Xiangru avoided the general, explaining to his subordinates that it is only through friendly cooperation among colleagues that the state can enjoy stability. His words were passed on to Lian Po, who was greatly moved and begged for Lin’s forgiveness, carrying thorned branches on his back as a sign of repentance. The two became great friends thereafter.
XIV: Kou Xun was a grand administrator of the Eastern Han. A subordinate of Jia Fu (賈復), a high official, committed murder in Kou’s jurisdiction. Kou put the offender to death, which embarrassed Jia greatly and prompted him to vow to take revenge. Kou hid from Jia to avoid a public conflict. The two were eventually reconciled through the emperor’s intervention.
Then, after Liu Bei had settled down in Baidi, Xu Sheng, Pan Zhang, Song Xian and others contended to persuade Sun Quan that Liu Bei could definitely be captured, and petitioned to continue the attacks. Sun Quan sought Lu Xun’s opinions. Together with Zhu Ran (朱然) and Luo Tong (駱統), Lu Xun argued that Cao Pi’s (曹丕) gathering a large army claiming to assisting Wu in attacking Liu Bei in fact concealed hidden agendas. Following this argument, Lu Xun further hastened the court to make a decision to make an immediate retreat. Not long after, the Wei army indeed acted and Wu faced attacks from three directions (5).
5: From Records of Wu: When Liu Bei heard of Wei’s attack, he wrote a letter to Lu Xun, saying, “The enemy [Wei] is already at the junction of the Yangtze and the Han River. If I launch another attack eastward, do you think I can succeed, in your opinion?” Lu Xun replied, “I am afraid that your army is still recovering from the wounds and losses of the previous defeat. This is the time to despatch envoys to forge alliances, to rest and recuperate. This is not the time for you to launch another all-out attack. If you don’t consider this carefully, and attempt an attack again with all the forces in your kingdom, none of those who you send over here to fight will be able to escape with their lives.”
Soon after, Liu Bei died of illness and his son Liu Shan (劉禪) succeeded the throne. Zhuge Liang (諸葛亮) was put in charge of state affairs, and he sealed an alliance with Sun Quan. According to the administrative needs during that time, Sun Quan ordered Lu Xun to reply to Zhuge Liang’s letters. In addition, Sun Quan also ordered that his own official seal be duplicated and this duplicate seal be placed in Lu Xun’s office. Every time Sun Quan dispatched letters to Liu Shan or Zhuge Liang, he had Lu Xun read through the letters and make the changes to the tone and appropriateness of the contents when necessary, then seal and deliver them.
In the seventh year of Huangwu (AD 228), Sun Quan ordered Zhou Fang (周魴), the Governor of Poyang (鄱陽), to lay a trap for Cao Xiu (曹休), the commander-in-chief of Wei. Cao Xiu was deceived into leading his troops straight into Wan (皖). At that, Sun Quan appointed Lu Xun as Grand Chief Controller (大都督) and also bestowed upon him the imperial golden axe, commanding him to lead an attack against Cao Xiu (6). When Cao Xiu realised that he was tricked, he was too ashamed to turn back; so, thinking that he had more troops and supplies, he chose to engage Lu Xun’s army. Lu Xun personally led the central force and ordered Zhu Huan and Quan Cong (全琮) to take the left and right flanks. The three armies advanced simultaneously, and decisively took on Cao Xiu’s ambushing troops. Following that, the Wu troops pursued hard on the fleeing Cao army until they reached Jiashi (夾石), where they annihilated some ten thousand men and won over ten thousand carriages pulled by oxen, horses, mules and donkey as spoils of war. All of the Cao army’s equipment and weaponry were looted. After Cao Xiu returned, he died of an ulcer on his back. Lu Xun regrouped his men; and when he passed by Wuchang (武昌), Sun Quan instructed his attendants to shield Lu Xun with his own canopy when entering and leaving the palace doors. All that Sun Quan bestowed upon Lu Xun as reward were imperial items, precious items of the finest grade. The honour Lu Xun received was matched by no one in that era. Soon after, Lu Xun was transferred back to Xiling (西陵) (XV).
6: Lu Ji (陸機) wrote in the Inscription of Lu Xun: The Wei Commander-in-Chief Cao Xiu invaded our northern borders. Lu Xun was awarded the imperial golden axe and put in command of all six armies and the imperial guard, to temporarily act on the Emperor’s behalf. The Lord [Sun Quan] held the whip and personally drove the carriage for him, and all the subjects knelt at his approach. In Records of Wu: Lu Xun was awarded the golden decorated axe and the King of Wu (Sun Quan) personally drove the carriage in order to honour him.
XV: Yiling was renamed Xiling in the first year of Huangwu.
In the first year of Huang Long (AD 229), Lu Xun was appointed to the rank of Commander-in-Chief of the First Army (上大将军) and Right General and Chief Commissioner (右都护). During this year, Sun Quan embarked on a surveying trip to Jian Ye, leaving the Crown Prince, the other princes, and all the civil officers behind. He summoned Lu Xun back to assist the Crown Prince, while overlooking the administration of Jing Province and the three commanderies of Yuzhang (XVI) and supervising all internal and external matters. Around this time, Sun Lü(孫慮), Marquis of Jianchang (建昌), had an exquisite duck-fight shed built in front of his hall. Lu Xun said to him sternly, “My Marquis, you should be studying the classics to increase your knowledge. Why do you engage in such activities?” Sun Lu immediately ordered for the duck-fight shed to be dismantled. Sun Song (孫松), Colonel of Sound-Piercing Archery (XVII) (射声校尉) was one of Sun Quan’s favourites among the junior aristocrats. He allowed his men to make merry without restraint, and his military discipline was lax. Lu Xun thus punished Sun Song’s officers by shaving their heads in front of him (XVIII). There was also one Xie Jing (謝景) of Nanyang (南陽), who deeply admired Liu Yi’s (劉廙) theory of punishments before civility. Lu Xun scoffed at Xie Jing, saying, “Encouraging morality has always been considered before punishments for a very long time. Liu Yi is wrong to distort the teachings of the sages of yore by twisting their words. Since you, sir, are now serving the Crown Prince, you should follow the teachings of compassion and honour and spread the teachings of benevolence. As for the words like those of Liu Yi’s, they should not be mentioned again! (XIX)”
XVI: Yuzhang, Poyang, and Luling. Being adjacent to Jing Province and inhabited by many Shanyue, these were the commanderies that crucially required a strong governor.
XVII: Captain of the Imperial Night Guard. Presumably, since the guard is on the night shift, it is important for one to fell an assailant by sound alone.
XVIII: In traditional Chinese ideology, one’s hair is just like one’s limbs, borne of one’s parents and thus unacceptable to alter or mutilate. Having one’s hair shaved is as humiliating a punishment as having one’s nose cut off.
XIX: Lu Xun’s position of education over punishment stems from classical Confucianism. In the Analects of Confucius: “Confucius said: If people are governed by laws, and order is maintained through punishment, then people will keep away from wrongdoing: but only because they want to avoid punishment, not because they have a sense of shame in doing wrong. If people are inspired by a moral and virtuous government, and order is maintained by rites of propriety, then people will want to be good because they have a sense of shame in doing wrong.—To Govern, Book II Chapter III, taken from The Sayings of Confucius(子曰: "道之以政, 齐之以刑, 民免而无耻; 道之以德,齐之以礼, 有耻且格."—为政第二: 三).
Even when Lu Xun was stationed away from the capital, he was often concerned deeply with the affairs of the state. He memorialized his views regarding current affairs saying,
“I, Your servant, feel that the laws are becoming too strict and stringent, causing more individuals to be charged with committing petty crimes. In the recent years, generals and civil officers alike have been involved in some violation or another—though they ought to be punished for their negligence, the world has yet to be united into one kingdom, hence we should overlook small errors committed in order to stabilize the morale of the staff. Furthermore, employing people of ability and talent should be our priority, and so as long as the misdoings are not malicious or degenerate in nature or something unforgivable, I propose for such people to be reinstated so as to have their abilities to be utilized again to return Your Majesty’s kindness.
This is the reason why the saints and kings of the old were able to establish their kingdoms, that is, by forgiving people’s mistakes of the past and remembering their contributions. In the past, the High Progenitor of the Han (漢高祖) did not consider accusations against Chen Ping (XX) (陳平), but instead used his brilliant strategies to build the foundation of the Han Dynasty, achieving deeds that are immortal.
XX: Chen Ping had been accused for various things—being in the ranks of Xiang Yu (項羽), archenemy of Liu Bang, before defecting to the Han side; having an affair with his sister-in-law; and accepting bribes from other generals. Rather then punishing him, Liu Bang promoted him to a central position in the military, and with Chen’s good planning Han eventually triumphed and united the land.
Stringent laws and harsh punishments do not augment the empire; punishment without clemency makes not people of the land content.”
Sun Quan wanted to send a force to take over Yizhou (XXI) (夷州) and Zhuya (朱崖), and consulted Lu Xun on the matter. Lu Xun wrote to him, saying,
XXI: Modern day Taiwan.
“I, your humble servant, think that since the land within our borders is still not completely peaceful yet, we should gather the strength of the people to address current internal concerns. For many years now we have been engaged in warfare, and our forces have been depleted. Now, Your Majesty has been so worried with the matter that sleep and meals have been neglected, in order to plan the expedition against Yizhou. After considering it several times over, I still do not see the benefit of this action.
Sending our forces over such a great distance, we can predict neither wind nor waves; being in a foreign land, our men would definitely become ill. If we are to dispatch our men to such wild lands, we would lose even if we planned to gain, and potential profits would turn out to be losses. Furthermore, Zhuya is a dangerous land, and its inhabitants are like wild beasts. Even if we were to take over their people, they would be of no use to us; and if we don’t keep a military presence there we could not control them either.
We have men and resources enough within the Southland to fulfill the Great Ambition (XXII), and all we need to do is to conserve our strength and then proceed in action. When Prince Huan (桓王) [Sun Ce] established his power, he started off with not even a full company of soldiers, but eventually he built a successful rule. Now Your Majesty has continued to follow the Mandate and built up the kingdom by the River. I’ve heard that while the awe inspired by an army is required to subdue trouble-makers and rebels, the most basic industry of the people should be farming for food and producing silk in order to feed and clothe themselves. At this time, fighting has not ceased yet, but the people are hungry and cold. My humble view is that we should let the people rest and be nourished, and relax rents and taxes, so that we achieve harmony and encourage bravery through righteousness. In that way the lands of the Yellow River and Wei River (渭水) will become ours, and unity will be brought to all under heaven.”
XXII: That is, to take over the world.
However, Sun Quan went ahead and attacked Yizhou. And indeed, the gains from that action could not make up for the losses.
When Gongsun Yuan (公孫淵) betrayed the alliance with Wu, Sun Quan contemplated leading an expedition against him. Lu Xun petitioned,
“Gongsun Yuan, relying on the geographical advantage of his land and the strength of his defences, dared to detain our country’s messager and withhold the tribute of fine horses—such actions indeed are hateful and insufferable! The barbarians that they are, they disturb the peace in the Central Lands, being ignorant and unaffected by our great culture. Like birds and beasts they hide in the wilderness, refusing to submit to our imperial forces. By this they have moved Your Majesty to royal wrath, desiring to risk your most precious person and sail across the vast seas to attack them, disregarding the dangers of this venture and the unpredictability of the outcome.
In our time, the world is in turmoil and warlords fight one another like fierce tigers. Men of prowess are restless and battle cries ring as they glare at one another with enmity. By Your Majesty’s divine and commanding splendour, you have received the Mandate of Heaven, crushing Cao Cao at Wulin (烏林), defeating Liu Bei at Xiling, and capturing Guan Yu at Jingzhou. All these three men are the heroes and talents of this era, and yet you have thwarted them one by one. All within ten thousand li submit to our rule and teachings, as grass bows to the blowing wind (XXIII). Now is the time for us to roll through the Central Plains, bringing peace and unity to all the world. Yet, not tolerating this slight offence, Your Majesty reveals his thunder-like anger; defying warnings of the old of not sitting under the edge of the roof to prevent getting hit by chipped tiles, Your Majesty risks your noble self in an endeavour unworthy of your concern. This your servant cannot comprehend.
XXIII: This alludes to a passage in the Analects: “The way of the lesser man is like grass, and the way of the gentleman is like the wind. Grass in the wind will certainly bow to it.”
Your servant has heard of a saying that a person who is determined to walk ten thousand li does not stop his pace midway; by analogy, one who has designs to conquer the world will not allow a small incident to disrupt the grand plan. Strong enemies are at our borders, and the wilderlands still lie beyond the court’s influence (XXIV). Should Your Majesty board the ships to go on a far expedition, that would tempt our enemies to take advantage of our situation. By the time you worry of the arriving dangers, it will be too late to regret.
XXIV: Referring to lands that are within the borders but which are furthest away from the capital region.
If we can successfully unite the world, Gongsun Yuan will surrender to us without us having to conquer him. Your Majesty desires the populace and the steeds of Liaodong (遼東), but would You then give away our stable establishment in the Southlands? Your humble servant begs you to cease all preparations for the expedition; rather, strike fear in our main enemies, that we may soon pacify the Central Plains and bring glory memorable for a thousand ages to come.”
Sun Quan thus accepted his proposal.
In the fifth year of Jiahe (嘉禾) (AD 236), Sun Quan led a northern expedition to Wei, sending Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin (諸葛瑾) to attack Xiangyang (襄陽). Lu Xun had dispatched his trusted subordinate, Han Bian (韓扁), to bring a report to Sun Quan; but on the way back, Han Bian encountered enemy soldiers at Mianzhong and was captured. When Zhuge Jin got news of this, he was extremely alarmed and wrote a letter to Lu Xun, saying, “His Majesty has just retreated and the enemies have captured Han Bian. They have thus gained our crucial military information. Moreover, the rivers have dried up—this is the time for us to make a hasty withdrawal.” Lu Xun did not reply to this letter, but rather spent his time supervising the planting of turnips and beans, and playing chess and games with his subordinates as if nothing had happened. Zhuge Jin said, “Lu Boyan is an ingenious person; surely he has a plan.” And so he paid a visit to Lu Xun. Lu Xun said to him, “The enemy knows that His Majesty had retreated, and they have no worries and can concentrate their forces against us. Moreover, they have already positioned their armies at strategic points. Our troops’ morale is wavering, so we should keep ourselves composed in order to calm the fears of our troops. Only then can we be flexible and devise strategies for a retreat. If we give any hints of withdrawal now, the enemies will think that we are afraid and continue to pursue our troops, which will undoubtedly lead to our defeat.”
Thereupon, Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin secretly conceived of a plan; Zhuge Jin was to lead the navy while Lu Xun commanded all the land troops feigning an attack on Xiangyang city. Since the enemies had always been fearful of Lu Xun, they immediately headed back into the city. Zhuge Jin thus led the navy to set off, while Lu Xun slowly reorganised the army, put on a false show of might, and proceeded on foot to board the ships. The enemies dared not pursue him. When the army reached Baiwei (白圍), Lu Xun announced that they would settle down in the region to hunt, while secretly ordering Generals Zhou Jun (周峻), Zhang Liang (張梁) and others to invade Xinshi (新市), Anlu (安陸) and Shiyang (石陽) counties of Jiangxia (江夏) commandery. At that juncture, Shiyang county was bustling with activities and when Zhou Jun arrived suddenly, the people abandoned their possessions hastily and raced back into the city, resulting in a blockage at the city gates which prevented them from being closed. The enemies had to kill their own civilians in order to shut the city gates. The Wu army slaughtered and captured some one thousand people (7). Those captured alive were given protection, and the soldiers were not allowed to harass them. Those who brought their families forth to seek assistance were taken care of. And to those who had lost their wives and children, clothes and food were granted bountifully before they were sent off. There were some who were touched and impressed by this gesture, so they brought their families to submit to the Wu sovereignty. In the vicinities, civilians also came to submit to Wu (8). Zhao Zhuo (趙濯), from the department of merit (XXV) in Jiangxia, Pei Sheng (裴生), a general garrisoned at Geyang (戈陽) commandery, as well as Mei Yi (梅頤), the leader of the barbarians were among those who led their subordinates and protegés to submit to Lu Xun. Lu Xun then distributed all the riches in solicitude.
7: I, Songzhi, your humble servant, feel that though Lu Xun was worried that when Sun Quan retreated Wei would concentrate their forces on him, he was able to make a false show of power to scare the enemy into staying put, successfully allowing his navy to retreat safely. This in itself was sufficient to set fears and concerns to rest, so why did he send his men to ambush a small county, causing a stampede among the civilians and killing themselves as a result? Capturing a mere thousand people is not sufficient to hurt Wei. This is a cruel act that led to innocent casualties in vain. In comparison to Zhuge Liang’s army at the Banks of Wei (渭濱), what a difference we see! Since the rules of warfare were violated, the grave consequences that come with such misconduct would surely come to pass. That the kingdom did not last beyond three generations, ending in destruction during the grandson’s reign—is this not from the evil that reverberated from this action?
8: I, Songzhi, your humble servant, think that this is no different than saving a fledgling after destroying a forest, throwing down every nest. Would such meagre favours be sufficient to make up for the great wrong done to them?
XXV: The department of merit includes several officers who act as the right-hand men of the chief administrator of a commandery or a county. They were originally in charge of recording merits and demerits of the officers in the jurisdiction, and recommending promotions and demotions.
Lu Shi (逯式), the Wei governor of Jiangxia, was given a military command and often disturbed the Wu borders. He had long been at loggerheads with Wen Xiu (文休), the son of the veteran general Wen Pin (文聘). When Lu Xun got to know of this situation, he feigned a reply letter to Lu Shi saying, “Upon receiving your letter, I know that you are sincere. I know that you and Wen Xiu have always been unable to get along, and unable to stand each other’s presence—hence your consideration to submit to our office. I have secretly sent your letter to the imperial court, and will gather my men to welcome you. You sir, should hastily make preparations in secret now, and inform us the exact time of your defection.” Lu Xun despatched someone to place the letter on the borders. When Lu Shi’s soldiers picked up the letter and handed it over to him, he was horrified. Thus, he personally sent his wife and children back to Luoyang (XXVI) (洛陽). From then on, Lu Shi’s peers and subordinates were unwilling to get close to him and subsequently, Lu Shi was removed of his ranks (9).
9: Your servant, Songzhi, is of the opinion that it is a common thing for a[n enemy] general garrisoned at the border to create trouble. Even if Lu Shi is framed, his replacement would do the same thing. It’s not the case that Lu Shi was intentionally malicious and a trouble-maker who would be a grave concern to security—in fact, it was a trivial matter undeserving of Lu Xun’s concern, let alone requiring him to use a mean trick in the matter! I cannot agree on [Chen Shou’s] making this sound like a good thing.
XXVI: As a gesture to prove his innocence.
In the sixth year of Jiahe (AD 237), Zhou Di (周袛), General of the Imperial Palace Guard (中郎將), requested permission to recruit soldiers at Poyang (鄱陽) commandery. Sun Quan asked Lu Xun for his opinion on this matter. Lu Xun felt that Poyang was prone to insurgence and its denizens were not law-abiding, hence recruitment should not take place as it would lead to civil unrest. However, Zhou Di insisted on recruiting. As expected, Wu Ju (吳遽) and other Poyang civilians rose in rebellion and killed Zhou Di, taking over several commanderies. At Yuzhang and Luling (廬陵), resident trouble-makers responded to Wu Ju’s uprising. When Lu Xun got news of this, he immediately set out to quell the rebellions and successfully defeated the outlaws. Wu Ju and others surrendered. From them, Lu Xun chose some eight thousand to join the elite troops, and the three commanderies were thus pacified.
At that time, Lu Yi (呂壹), Chief Editor of the Department of Documents (中書典校), was corrupt and abusive of his power. Lu Xun and Pan Jun (潘濬), Chief Minister of Rites (太常), were both very concerned with the situation, constantly petitioning [Sun Quan to rectify the situation] to the point of tears. At some point after that, Sun Quan had Lu Yi put to death, and reproached himself greatly [for allowing Lu Yi’s recklessness]. This is discuessed in Sun Quan’s biography.
Around that time too, Xie Yuan (謝淵), Xie Gong (謝厷), among others proposed various reforms aimed to increase state revenues1. Sun Quan inquired Lu Xun for his opinion. Lu Xun gave the following analysis: “A state has at its foundation the common people, its strength built on the labour of the people, its wealth coming from the contribution of the people. Never is it the case that the populace can be wealthy when the state is poor, nor can the people be weak while the state is strong. Therefore, those in charge of the affairs of the state create peace by winning the support of the people, and create havoc by losing their support. Furthermore, it is difficult to make people dedicate their effort to the country if they cannot see what is in it for them. Thus, in the Book of Odes, there is this exclamation: ‘One who benefits the commoners, who benefits the people/He shall be shown great favours by Heaven.’ I beg Your Majesty to show Your mercy to the people, and seek to make changes only when our resources are more abundant, after a few years’ time.” (10)
10: From Records of Kuiji: Xie Yuan, styled Xiude (休德), practised virtue at a young age. Though he had to till the ground and farm for a living, never did he show displeasure [of his poverty], nor did he become anxious easily. Thus his name became known in the land. He was later recommended as Filial and Incorrupt, and then eventually promoted to General who Establishes Might (建武將軍). Even when he was employed in the armed forces, he kept a lookout for talented men in the land. Luo Tong’s son, Luo Xiu (駱秀), was implicated in a scandal in his family. Everyone held him in suspicion, and he could not clear his name. After hearing about it, Xie Yuan sighed and said, “Gongxu’s (公緒) [Luo Tong’s style name] too-early death is mourned by all of us. I’ve heard that his son is honourable and upright in his ambition and his conduct, but now he is covered by the shadow of a baseless scandal. I had hoped that all of you good sirs would judge correctly in his case; however, seeing that you each still have your doubts about him, I am disappointed.” Eventually, Luo Xiu’s name was cleared, and no fault was again attributed to him. Furthermore, he ended up being a famous and respected gentleman of the time, and that was all due to Xie Yuan’s help.
From Annals of Wu: Xie Gong was a talented debator, full of plans and stratagems.
In the 7th year of Chiwu (AD 244), Lu Xun replaced Gu Yong (顧雍) as Prime Minister. The imperial decree issued for this ran thus:
“Though lacking in virtue and undeserving are We, by Heaven’s Mandate We ascended the throne. The earthly realm, though, is not yet unified, and criminals and evildoers still fill the land. Night and day We tremble with worry, unable to take time even to rest.
But, you, sir, have been endowed with great intelligence and wisdom, and your brilliant virtues are apparent to all. Ever since you have been appointed as a general, you have upheld the honour of the country, defeating all her challengers. It is a fact that those who have performed extraordinary deeds will be glorified with boundless honour, and he who is full of martial and governmental talents will be given the burdens of the country. In the past, Yi Yin (伊尹) augmented the power of the Shang (XXVII) (商), and LüShang (呂尚) assisted the mighty Zhou (XXVIII) (周) ; likewise, you, sir, shall be entrusted with the responsibilities of affairs both internal and external. Today, I make you, sir, the Prime Minister, and We command Fu Chang (傅常), Acting Grand Master of Ceremonies and Bearer of the Jie (XXIX) (使持節守太常) to bestow on you the seal and cord of your position. We entrust you, sir, to propagate the proper virtues, to accomplish monumental achievements, to bear the imperial orders and pacify the four corners of the world!
XXVII: Yi Yin, according to legend, was a slave of the Youxin (有莘) tribe who entered the household of Tang, leader of the Shang, as part of a marriage alliance. Tang recognised Yi Yin’s talents and entrusted him with affairs of the state, and with his help destroyed the Xia dynasty and established the Shang.
XXVIII: LüShang, also known as Jiang Shang (姜尚), was an elderly man before King Wen of Zhou (周文王) discovered him and employed him as his chief advisor. He helped King Wen’s son, King Wu of Zhou (周武王), defeat the Shang and established the Zhou dynasty.
XXIX: The jieis a symbol representing a set of special prerogatives, which include the ability to execute anyone below the rank of 2,000 shi The shiis a unit of grain, and during the Han the position of a rank is classified according to the salary, measured in shi.
Be now the one above the Three Lords (XXX), be now the one to admonish your peers. May you be respected, and may you always be heartened at your post.
XXX: Also translated as the “Three Dukes”, these are the top positions in the ladder of Han officialdom.
Maintain the posts of Provincial Governor, Chief Commissioner and designated administrator of Wuchang as before.”
Sometime before this, there were vacancies in the offices of two of the princes (XXXI), and many of the ministers both within and outside the capital sent the junior members of their families to fill the positions. Quan Cong notified Lu Xun of this, and Lu Xun argued that should one’s junior family members really have talent, one should not have to worry about them being unemployed. Thus, one should not seek to establish connections in private, lest disaster ensue when a prince proves not to be good. Furthermore, between two princes with equal power conflict must result—wise men of times past avoided getting involved in such situations.
XXXI: Sun He (孫和), the then crown prince, and Sun Ba (孫霸), Prince of Lu (魯王).
However, Quan Ji (全寄), son of Quan Cong, did end up affiliating himself with the Prince of Lu’s faction, and helped the Prince to develop schemes and plots (XXXII). Lu Xun then wrote to Quan Cong, saying, “Not taking Mi Di (日磾) as a model (XXXIII), and putting up with A-Ji’s behaviour—my friend, you are courting disaster for your clan!” Quan Cong did not accept this advice and ill feelings came between the two men. Then, when it became apparent that the Crown Prince’s position was no longer secure, Lu Xun wrote to the Emperor, saying, “The Crown Prince, being the rightful heir, should have a foundation of power as solid as rock; while the Prince of Lu, being a vassal-prince, should be made to know his inferior position by being granted fewer favours than the Crown Prince. If all know their position in the hierarchy, both the superiors and their subordinates will know peace. I kowtow humbly, to the point of bleeding, imploring Your Majesty to consider this.” Lu Xun sent letter after letter, asking to be allowed an audience in the capital in order to discuss in person the issue of primogeniture, and to right the wrongs committed. He was never granted a hearing. Furthermore, Lu Xun’s nephews Gu Tan (顧譚), Gu Cheng (顧承), and Yao Xin (姚信) were exiled for their connections with the crown prince. Wu Can (吾粲), Grand Tutor of the Crown Prince, was sent to jail and executed for his correspondence with Lu Xun. Sun Quan also repeatedly sent messengers from the court to reprimand Lu Xun. Filled with vexation and grief, Lu Xun died, at the age of 63. He had little wealth to leave behind to his family.
XXXII: Even though Sun Quan had established Sun He as his heir, he showed enormous favours towards Sun Ba, leading to Ba’s rivalry with He. At the end, Ba was ordered to commit suicide, and He lost his position as crown prince.
XXXIII: Mi Di was an officer greatly respected by Emperor Wu of Han. His son was commanded to care for the princes, but his conduct was degenerate. Despising his debauchery, his father, Mi Di, had him put to death.
Formerly, when Ji Yan (暨豔) submitted a proposal for constructing government buildings, Lu Xun admonished against that, predicting that it would lead to trouble. At another occasion, he said to Zhuge Ke (諸葛恪), “Towards those above my position, I would respect them and work in concurrence with them; those who are below me I support and promote. But now, I see you, sir, carrying an air that threatens those superior to you and belittles those subordinate to you. This is not the way to build a stable career for yourself.” And yet at another time, Lu Xun predicted that one Yang Zhu (楊竺) of Guangling (廣陵), who had made a name for himself in his youth, was bound to end up in calamity, and furthermore advised Yang Zhu’s older brother, Yang Mu (楊穆), to sever him from the clan. Those are examples of Lu Xun’s foresight. Lu Xun’s eldest, Lu Yan (陸延), died in infancy, and his second son, Lu Kang (陸抗), became his heir. During the reign of Sun Xiu (孫休), Lu Xun was granted the posthumous title of the Marquis of Brilliance (昭侯).
Copyright © 2004 and Sonken
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi with Pei Songzhi’s annotations